June 12, 2012 [The Plain Dealer]
Last week, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason made good on his pledge to pony up $5 million to raze vacant and abandoned properties in Cuyahoga County, using his office’s share of delinquent property tax collections.
Even better, he earmarked $1 million of that money for cash-strapped and foreclosure-cratered Cleveland and another $1 million to cash-strapped and foreclosure-cratered East Cleveland.
Then, Mason sweetened the pot by allotting another $1 million for as many as 11 inner-ring suburbs after an assessment of applications and need, using criteria such as the percentage of foreclosures. The deadline for applications is Friday.
More significant than the money is the message Mason sends through this last initiative: By requiring specific communities to quantify their distress, he initiates a regional strategy that encourages collaboration and sets priorities. Mason prosecutes cases based on the severity of the crime. Why not use a similar standard to determine who gets a piece of the home-demolition pie?
And the deal gets sweeter. That $5 million joins the $6.8 million committed by the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp. — the land bank — to bulldoze blighted buildings.
And sweeter. That $11.8 million will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the state with money it received as part of a nationwide settlement with five of the largest mortgage lenders.
The only sour patch: The carpetbaggers who annihilated Northeast Ohio neighborhoods aren’t behind bars.